from the return-to-the-dark-ages dept
Techdirt has been tracking the sorry saga of Canada’s assault on free speech for a while, as it first muzzled scientists and librarians, and then clamped down on the public expressing its views. Now, it seems, the Canadian government of Stephen Harper is attacking knowledge by dismantling key scientific collections, as this post on The Tyee reports:
Scientists say the closure of some of the world’s finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.
There seems to have been no attempt to find other homes for books, maps and unique collections of historical data, or even to offer them for free to the Canadian public that paid for them. Instead, they are simply being destroyed, some in literal book burnings:
Many collections such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute Library in Mont-Joli, Quebec ended up in dumpsters while others such as Winnipeg’s historic Freshwater Institute library were scavenged by citizens, scientists and local environmental consultants. Others were burned or went to landfills, say scientists.
What’s strange is that even though the rationale for this mass destruction is apparently in order to reduce costs, opportunities to sell off more valuable items have been ignored. A scientist is quoted as follows:
“Hundreds of bound journals, technical reports and texts still on the shelves, presumably meant for the garbage or shredding. I saw one famous monograph on zooplankton, which would probably fetch a pretty penny at a used science bookstore… anybody could go in and help themselves, with no record kept of who got what.”
In the light of these events, another top scientist made the following comment:
Hutchings said none of the closures has anything to do with saving money, due to the small cost of maintaining the collections. He, like many scientists, concludes that Harper’s political convictions are driving the unprecedented consolidation.
“It must be about ideology. Nothing else fits,” said Hutchings. “What that ideology is, is not clear. Does it reflect that part of the Harper government that doesn’t think government should be involved in the very things that affect our lives? Or is it that the role of government is not to collect books or fund science? Or is it the idea that a good government is stripped down government? ”
Hutchings saw the library closures fitting a larger pattern of “fear and insecurity” within the Harper government, “about how to deal with science and knowledge.”
Or it may just be that the Canadian government doesn’t want any inconvenient scientific evidence to get in the way of its dogma-based policymaking.